Give love to Mother Earth this fall

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By Cheryl Steenerson

You know it’s fall when your laundry pile doubles in a week!
So far, the mercury has dropped to a low of 24 here at the farm. This being Kentucky, the next morning it was 42. I think Mother Nature gets dyslexic in the fall. The temperatures are going to waffle back and forth between mild to Brrrrr, until it’s all Brrrr. That means wearing layers of clothing to keep from shivering. Hence, the doubling of the pile. Thankfully, I just made eight gallons of laundry soap!
The trees are putting on a colorful show, just before they drop. Colors range from deep red to bright yellow and everything in between.  If you want to plant an autumn view of trees in your yard, you need to pick the right trees. A red maple will give you red leaves. Sugar maples offer orange and yellow, ash gives you a burgundy, hickory provides a light gold and elm a lemon yellow.
As the leaves drop, you have two choices, bag them or mow over them. Why you would want to bag them is beyond me though. They make great fertilizer and help with our heavy clay soils. Raking them into a 10 feet by 10 feet area and then mowing over them gives you a small area to rake up and remove to the garden. Till it in and you will have amended the clay soil.
Clay soil holds more nutrients than any other soil. The trick is to “unclump” the soil by adding compost. This allows the water to get through, instead of pooling. Yes, it requires a little labor, but it’s not like you have to lift a Buick. Pull all the green living in the garden, then lay down the shredded leaves. Add a bucket of wood ashes to the mix and then till it into the soil. Now, cover the whole thing with black plastic and secure it to the ground.
You’ll be ready to plant on any day of your choice next spring and you didn’t pay a dime to fertilize.
Mum fans can still get those little beauties into the ground, but hurry. If you have mums already in the ground and the frost hit them go ahead and prune to an inch or two above ground. Then, mulch them. If you’re planting new mums space them about 2 1/2 feet apart in good, well-draining soil. Go ahead and lay down some mulch and water them regularly.
The nuts are dropping all over the farm and I love it! If you dread picking up those nuts, do what I do, think “cookies”! Have you seen the price of nuts in the store? I’ve also got bags of zucchini in the freezer just waiting to be mixed up with flour, sugar, pineapple and nuts for bread. The recipe for Toll House chocolate chip cookies is already out and waiting for me to mix up a big batch with nuts. Nuts are good for you!
Eating just 6-7 walnuts a day can keep you from getting sick since they help fight free radicals. They also offer omega-3 fatty acids which helps lower the bad cholesterol and fight heart disease. But wait! There’s more! They also provide a great source of vitamins E and B-6. The minerals they offer includes manganese, copper, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium. The zinc is especially helpful to those who battle acid reflux. All of these vitamins and nutrients from just a little nut. So, bend over, and over and over for something that will help you stay healthy this winter, again without spending a dime.
We were meant to live on this earth in harmony, just like the four elements that make it up. We should have what is know as a symbiotic relationship, each benefiting the other. As I sat before the wood stove the other night, this thought was brought home.
I sat with a perfect cup of hot chocolate and watched the flames dance. As I stared, I got to thinking that fire is the perfect symmetry. All the elements, earth, water, air and fire, are represented. The wind came from the heat, the water from the moisture in the wood, and the earth provided the soil nutrients to feed and grow the tree. The end product is heat for my shelter. How great is that!
Now, get outside and give a little lovin’ to Mother Earth. We couldn’t live without her gifts. Get those chores done before it’s B.A.C. (figure it out, the last word is cold)!
Use our ever increasing hours of darkness to fire up the washing machine. It’s going to get a great workout this winter!
Happy Growing!

Cheryl Steenerson is the gardening columnist for The Anderson News.